A Swedish project financed by Bioinnovation is the first in the world to 3D print a full-size kayak in one piece. The kayak is made of recycled plastic reinforced with wood fiber from Swedish forests. The breakthrough opens up the competitive manufacturing of more bio-based and circular products.
3D printing on an industrial scale is a relatively unexplored area. But now RISE, in collaboration with the kayak manufacturer Melker of Sweden and the wood fiber producer Biofiber Tech, is showing that the technology can become a sustainable replacement for conventional production methods. In a project within Bioinnovation, the actors have produced a kayak made of wood fiber-reinforced recycled plastic that was 3D printed in one piece. The material in combination with the technology opens up a bio-based and circular boat production.
Knowledge of which materials are suitable for 3D printing is limited. Making such a large object out of only recycled plastic gave poor results, but by reinforcing it with a new type of surface-treated wood fiber from Biofiber Tech, the kayak became light and durable.
- Biocomposites like this one allow us to use recycled plastic to a greater extent in industry and increase circularity in a range of products. Boats are just one example. In the long run, we can manufacture furniture and other large objects from materials that are more durable than those used today, says Eric Zhang, founder and CEO of Biofiber Tech.
In a few years' time, the 3D-printed kayaks will be on the market. Even now, the technology can be used to produce prototypes at half the cost.
To enable an industrial breakthrough, RISE proposes a sharing economy solution where companies jointly invest in the new technology and establish centers for 3D printing.
- We need to share knowledge and technology for 3D printing to succeed on a large scale. The technology is new and knowledge of the implementation and suitability of the materials is limited. With the right conditions, 3D printing can contribute to Sweden reaching its climate goals, managing the transition to more sustainable production and strengthening its global competitiveness, says Ting Yang Nilsson, project manager RISE.
Full article, BioInnovation: